Brewers powerhouses don’t start series finale

MILWAUKEE — For 18 consecutive games, Brewers manager Ron Roenicke has put together a starting lineup that was different than the game before. But on Sunday morning, picking that starting lineup took longer than it has all season.

“It took some discussion,” Roenicke said.

That’s because for the first time this season on Sunday, the Brewers were without both Ryan Braun and Aramis Ramirez in their lineup. Braun is still recovering from a nagging Achilles and hip injury that kept him out of Saturday’s lineup, too, while Ramirez suffered a left quad strain that forced him out of Saturday’s game.

Roenicke said before the game that neither injury is expected to be serious and shouldn’t result in either player being on the disabled list, but he wasn’t overly confident on declaring their return coming after the team’s off day on Monday.

“We’ll see with the off day tomorrow,” Roenicke said. “We’ll see where they are Tuesday. They’re both sore today. So we’ll figure it out.”

Both players had meetings with team doctor William Raasch on Sunday afternoon, but Roenicke was mum on whether the meetings went well.

Without Ramirez and Braun in the lineup, the Brewers still managed five runs, including three home runs, in a narrow defeat at the hands of the Pirates, 6-5. That’s quite a feat in itself, as Ramirez — batting .249 — and Braun — batting .310 — have accounted for 39 percent of the Brewers’ home runs this season, 28 percent of the team’s RBI, and 30 percent of the team’s total runs.

When asked if Sunday’s loss could be perceived as a moral victory, due to all the young players in the lineup, Braun was firm in his answer.

“Everybody fought hard, but I don’t think you play for moral victories at this level,” Braun said after the game. “You’ve seen a lot of guys step up that have played well and performed for us. When you have guys hurt, it tests the depth of an organization. We’ve had a lot of guys who have come up and played really well.”

With the game within one run, Braun got his own chance to affect the game as Roenicke sent him out to pinch hit in the bottom of the eighth with two runners on base. According to Roenicke, the star left fielder had hit in the cage during the game and deemed himself healthy enough to contribute late. And with a thunderous round of applause from the Miller Park crowd, Braun swung at the first pitch, taking Jason Grilli’s pitch all the way to the warning track in right field. But it fell short.

Sunday’s lineup actually featured more players that didn’t start the year at the major league level — five total — than not. And only two players in the lineup – Corey Hart and Rickie Weeks — were opening day starters.

But even with the influx of recent minor leaguers in Sunday’s lineup — and plenty of lineups before it — Hart said that the team has responded time and time again, as those bench players have filled in admirably.

“Guys have been stepping up,” Hart said. “(Shortstop) Cody (Ransom) has been amazing defensively and got some big hits. And we might not have won yesterday if (infielder) Brooks (Conrad) wasn’t in the lineup. It’s just one of those things that guys have got in there and done their part.”

Still, he admitted before the game that not having Braun or Ramirez, the team’s two premier power bats would be an unusual experience.

“It is (strange),” Hart said. “But like I said, guys have found a way to get it done. We wouldn’t have won the game in L.A. if Maldonado wasn’t playing. It’s one of those things that guys who have been playing have found a way to contribute. And that’s what you need, especially when the guys that you count on aren’t in there.”

Follow Ryan Kartje on Twitter.